- Associated Press - Thursday, July 27, 2017

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) - A roundup of news from the Television Critics Association summer meeting, at which TV networks and streaming services are presenting details on upcoming programs.

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‘CURB’ VS. TRUMP

Larry David says his irascible, mouthy character on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is “about a quarter-inch” away from David himself.

But David said he bears no resemblance to another blunt talker, President Donald Trump.

“I don’t consider myself a (expletive),” he told a TV critics’ meeting Wednesday, brushing off a reporter’s question about whether Trump represented a rival as David’s HBO comedy returns after a long absence.

Jeff Garlin, who co-stars on the comedy, chimed in.

“Our president is not funny, and Larry’s funny. So I don’t see the competition,” Garlin said. “I think one is completely sad, and one you escape from the horribleness of the sad one.”

“Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which last aired six years ago, is back for a 10-episode ninth season starting Oct. 1. Besides Garlin, cast members include Cheryl Hines, Susie Essman and J.B. Smoove, with Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston and Lauren Graham among the guest stars.

David was asked why he decided to bring the show back now.

“Why not?” he answered. “I’m not a miss-er, so to speak. I don’t really miss things, people, that much. But I was missing it and I was missing these idiots,” he said of the cast members who joined him to promote the show. “So I thought, what the hell.”

He also tired of people asking him if the show was coming back - but he wouldn’t put to rest questions about whether this would be its last season.

David spent a fair amount of time playing with reporters as he, sometimes, answered their questions.

Asked if the TV version of Larry David might eventually become lovable someday, David replied, sarcastically, “No, no he’s not. But fascinating question.”

Would his character eventually have to face everyone he had wronged? That apparent nod to the series ender of “Seinfeld,” which David created with Jerry Seinfeld, induced real or feigned irritation.

“I guess that’s a ‘Seinfeld’ reference? A ‘Seinfeld’ finale reference? What are doing? I braved traffic to get here,” David said. “Shame on you.”

David also will be seen on the upcoming season of PBS’ genealogy series “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr.” In it, he discovers he has a family connection to Bernie Sanders, the senator and former presidential hopeful that David played on “Saturday Night Live.”

There’s a connection as well to Judith Sheindlin, TV’s “Judge Judy,” who makes an appearance on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” The reason he picked her and not another TV judge, David said, is he knew Sheindlin because she’s part of his ex-wife’s family.

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SPIELBERG, DIRECTOR’S CUT

Steven Spielberg isn’t afraid to talk about his flops.

“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” is his least favorite film in that franchise, says documentarian Susan Lacy, who spent more than 30 hours interviewing the filmmaker for “Spielberg,” premiering Oct. 7 on HBO.

Spielberg also acknowledges some mistakes in “1941,” Lacy said Wednesday at the Television Critics Association’s summer meeting.

She said she only expected to have four interviews with the traditionally private filmmaker, but that they ended up meeting 17 times.

“I can only guess that turning 70 is a turning point for many people,” said Lacy, who created and produced the “American Masters” series on PBS for decades. Spielberg turned 70 in December.

She also spoke with Spielberg’s parents and sister, as well as scores of his collaborators, including Daniel Day-Lewis, Matt Damon and Tom Cruise.

The most compelling thing about Spielberg, both to his colleagues and to Lacy, is his deep knowledge of and enthusiasm for the medium, she said.

“I could not believe how articulate he was about the process of making films and his process of making films, and how much fun he had talking about it,” she said. “Every actor I interviewed - and I interviewed everybody… that’s what they were most impressed with: How much he understands the process of filmmaking and how he sees ahead when he’s shooting… There are very few filmmakers who have that skill, and it impressed everyone.”

Lacy described her subject as both a populist and an artist, saying his early work reflects his life in the suburbs and as a child of divorce and his later movies pay homage to the classic Hollywood filmmakers he admired, such as William Wyler and John Ford.

She said Spielberg never tried to influence her documentary’s approach and that he didn’t see the film until it was finished. When he called Lacy to say he liked it, she let out a two-year-old sigh of relief.

“I didn’t allow myself to go there: What happens if Steven Spielberg doesn’t like the movie?” she said. “If I’d thought about that, I’d probably have been frozen and immobilized and not able to do it.”

“Spielberg” focuses on his work as a director. Lacy said she doesn’t get much into his philanthropic efforts or his various projects as a producer.

The documentary’s most valuable message for future filmmakers and other creative people, she said, is Spielberg’s belief in himself.

“Having a vision and sticking to it and not letting anybody get in the way of it is probably the best lesson you can learn from Steven Spielberg,” Lacy said. “The decision to make ‘Schindler’s List,’ a 3 ½-hour black-and-white movie about the Holocaust, that didn’t come out of any kind of focus group. That was a belief that it was something he needed to do.”

Spielberg won his first directing Oscar for the 1994 film, which was also named best picture.

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DEFENDING ‘CONFEDERATE’

HBO’s programming chief said the cable channel erred in how it unveiled plans for a series envisioning modern Southern slavery, but he defended “Confederate” against sharp criticism it drew on social media.

“I would file this under, ‘hindsight is 20-20,’” programming president Casey Bloys said Wednesday. HBO was misguided in expecting that “we would be able to announce an idea that is so sensitive and requires so much care and thought on the part of the producers in a press release.”

If HBO got a do-over, it would have given producers the chance to publicly detail why they wanted to do the series, an understanding that HBO executives had gained before greenlighting the series from “Game of Thrones” masterminds David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.

Benioff and Weiss, who are white, also will serve as showrunners on the series. They’ll work with Malcolm Spellman (“Empire,” the forthcoming “Foxy Brown”) and Nichelle Tramble Spellman (“Justified,” ”The Good Wife”), husband-and-wife TV veterans who both are black and who will be fellow executive producers and writers on the new series.

“Confederate” will take place in an alternate timeline where the Southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, forming a nation in which legalized slavery has been modernized. The show won’t be “whips and plantations,” Bloys said.

It’s important to draw a line between America today and its past and try to advance the discussion on race relations, Bloys told a TV critics’ meeting Wednesday. He said he’s placing his faith in the producers and their passion, calling it a risk worth taking.

He said the more producers can weigh in about why the project is important, the more it will make sense. While people may still not like the idea of the show, at least they’ll understand the motivation behind it, Bloys said.

“All we ask is that people judge the final product,” he said.

As part of its announcement last week, HBO described the story as following “a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone,” including freedom fighters, politicians, abolitionists and executives of a slave-holding conglomerate.

In an interview with the creative team posted to address the backlash that quickly followed, Nichelle Tramble Spellman told Vulture that the drama isn’t going to be “the big ‘Gone With the Wind’ mansion.” She said it is “present day, or close to present day, and how the world would have evolved if the South had been successful seceding from the Union.”

“Confederate” isn’t expected to start production for at least a year. Bloys noted that Benioff and Weiss are hard at work on the final season of “Game of Thrones,” with the premiere date yet to be settled. The fantasy drama’s seventh and penultimate season just began showing.

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BALTIMORE REVISITED

The producers and participants in “Baltimore Rising” say national and local media sensationalized the protests that erupted after the death of Freddie Gray, but that their new documentary humanizes the narrative.

Activists Kwame Rose and Makayla Gilliam-Price appeared alongside director Sonja Sohn Wednesday at the Television Critics Association’s summer meeting to discuss the documentary premiering on HBO in November.

Those activists and Baltimore Police Lt. Melvin Russell say media coverage of the participants in protests against police brutality have created deeper divides in society.

He urged the media attending Wednesday’s meeting to create more “relational equity” to engender trust among community members and police.

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STEWART TAKES A STANDUP

Jon Stewart is bringing his comedy to HBO.

The network announced Wednesday that Stewart will return to the network for his first stand-up special since 1996.

Stewart is also set to host the “Night of Too Many Stars” tribute in November benefiting Next for Autism, which will feature sketches, short films and standup comedy.

HBO president of programming Casey Bloys said Stewart’s two upcoming appearances are “part of a larger deal” the network has with the entertainer, but he did not elaborate.

The announcement came as part of the Television Critics Association’s annual summer meeting.

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NUCLEAR TRAGEDY

HBO says production will begin next year on a miniseries about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The five-part series will star Jared Harris as a Soviet scientist tapped by the Kremlin to investigate the accident.

The series will dramatize the events of the 1986 Ukrainian nuclear catastrophe that resulted in widespread radioactive fallout. Thirty people were killed and more than 100,000 had to be relocated.

HBO announced at the Television Critics Association’s summer meeting on Wednesday that production on “Chernobyl” is set to begin in Lithuania in spring of 2018.

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